Web Ads, Still Seedy After All These Years?

joannaoconnelrevised“Marketer’s Note” is a weekly column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O’Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.  

I’ll start by saying I didn’t watch last night’s Super Bowl game, but, as any good student of advertising, I did watch the commercials (after the fact of course; thank you, internet).  It was a hodgepodge of the funny (thanks, T Mobile for actually telling the truth about Super Bowl ads in this simple, straightforward little ad), the boring (BudLight Cool Twist) and the strange (Scientology).

There is one commercial I wanted to highlight because it had such a visceral effect on me: this Squarespace commercial that features a dystopian “Total Recall”-esque internet. While the ad itself didn’t make a lot of sense to me (what was it trying to tell me Squarespace does exactly?), there were a couple moments that really stood out to this long-time member of the digital advertising industry: first, the bodybuilder with the “CLICK HERE!” belly button; and second, and more memorably, the “people who bought this also bought this” robot. Yes, it was an easy shot at the state of today’s crowded, messy internet. But it was also a reminder of what most people really think of most digital advertising today: loud, intrusive or just plain creepy.  What this ad told me, loud and clear, is that we’ve still got a major image problem in digital advertising.  It reminded me of something Bob Lord, AOL Networks CEO, said, when we were chatting on-stage at Industry Preview a couple weeks back: “I’m trying to get AOL not to talk about ad units. I’m trying to get AOL to talk about ad experiences.”  That is a great start in working to change the conversation from intrusive ads to interesting, immersive ones. But the creepy question – what are we doing to address the creepy question? I’d argue still not nearly enough.

But that’s all I’m going to say about last night’s crop of commercials because, all in all, it felt like more of the same – huge budgets spent on traditional television advertising.

Watchers and non-watchers alike, feel free to weigh in on this subject!


Follow Joanna O’Connell (@joannaoconnell ) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter. 


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